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The organisms we call plants are assigned to a single clade; that is, a natural grouping based on the belief that they have all evolved from a common ancestor more recent than any shared with other organisms.
Among the criteria for doing this are:
The ancestors of these organisms were the most primitive members of the clade. In other words, organisms that we would put in this division were probably the ancestors of all the other plants.There are some 7000 species living today. They include:
Although some of the multicellular forms are large, they never develop more than a few differentiated types of cells and their fertilized eggs do not develop into an embryo.
Green algae are an important source of food for many aquatic animals. When lakes and ponds are "fertilized" with phosphates and nitrates (e.g., from sewage and the runoff from fertilized fields and lawns), green algae often form extensive algal "blooms".
These are fairly simple plants that do produce a number of differentiated cell types and whose fertilized egg develops into a distinct embryo.However, they have neither
Some 16,000 living species are known. Most grow in moist places.
|Link to an illustrated discussion of mosses.|
The members of this group are often called club mosses. They are not mosses at all, but vascular plants with xylem and phloem running through their roots, stems, and leaves. The leaves are quite simple and small with their vascular tissue in a single, unbranched vein.
The "club" of their name comes from the appearance of their spore-forming structures called strobili.
Club mosses are also sometimes called "ground pines", but they are not pines either. The photo shows Lycopodium obscurum.
About 1000 species of lycopsids exist today. All are small (those in the photo stand about 8 in. [20 cm] tall), but it was not always so. Fossil lycopsids in the Mississippian and Pennsylvanian periods (the so-called Carboniferous era) reached heights of 100 feet. Their remains contributed to the formation of coal.
|Link to discussion of the reason for this.|
The diagram (based on the work of Ohyama, K. et al., Nature 322:572, 1986 and Linda A. Raubeson and R. K. Jansen, Science 225:1697, 1992) shows the genome of the first chloroplast DNA to be sequenced, that of the liverwort Marchantia polymorpha. It contains 121,024 base pairs encoding 128 genes. The short lines indicate a few of the tRNA genes, some of which are labeled.
The order of the genes between the arrows (~6:30 to ~10:00) is also found in the lycopsids. But in all other vascular plants, this region is inverted and the order of the genes is precisely reversed. This provides further evidence that the other vascular plants we shall examine below, the
The common name comes from the characteristic pattern of branching: whorls or rings of branchlets arising from an aboveground shoot. The shoot develops each season from an underground stem (rhizome).
Horsetails often grow in sandy places and incorporate silica in their stems. This gives them an abrasive quality which caused them to once be used for cleaning pots and pans, which gave rise to another common name: scouring rush.
Only one genus of sphenopsids, Equisetum, containing about 25 species, survives today (it is placed in the division Equisetopsida). However, many other, much larger, species were dominant features of the Carboniferous and, like the early lycopsids, contributed to the formation of coal.
|Link to an illustrated discussion of ferns.|
The megaspores were not released from the parent sporophyte. Fertilization took place within the tissue of the parent sporophyte thus freed from dependence on surface water.
However, the necessity for the microspores to be carried from one plant to another in order to reach the female gametophyte robbed them of their value as agents of dispersal. This function was taken over by seeds - dormant, protected, embryo sporophytes.
|Link to a discussion of the alternation of gametophyte and sporophyte generations in plant life cycles.|
The seed ferns, as these plants are called, were among the earliest gymnosperms. Although seed ferns are now extinct, some of their living descendants, the cycads, resemble them closely. Cycads reveal their ancient lineage by the fact that after the microspore reaches the ovule, it liberates a ciliated sperm which, swimming in moisture supplied by the parent sporophyte, reaches the egg.
Ginkgos are another group of gymnosperms that use motile sperm.
Conifers get their name from the cones in which the both microspores and megaspores develop.
The male cones produce microspores that develop into pollen grains that are carried by the wind to the female cones. Here each germinates into a pollen tube which grows into the tissues of the female cone until it reaches the vicinity of the egg. (In pines, this may take a year.) Then the tube ruptures and a sperm nucleus fuses with the egg to form the zygote.After fertilization, the zygote develops into a tiny embryo sporophyte plant.
There are approximately 550 species of living conifers. They include the
Conifers include the largest and the oldest of all living organisms. One redwood (genus Sequoia) growing in California is almost 400 feet high. Bristlecone pines growing in the mountains of eastern California are more than 4000 years old.
Although most conifers are evergreen, their leaves are modified as "needles", and these reduce snow load and transpiration during the winter in the harsh high-latitude climates where conifers are the dominant species of plants.
Coniferous forests are of great economic importance producing lumber for building and pulp for paper making.
Although angiosperms appear in the fossil record in Jurassic deposits, it was not until the end of the Mesozoic era that angiosperms became the dominant plants of the landscape. That they dominate the earth's flora today is clear: there are some 240,000 species of living angiosperms; the rest of the plant kingdom includes only some 34,000 species.
|Link to an illustrated discussion of the life cycle of angiosperms.|
Monocot traits:The monocots belong to a single clade and share these traits: